BRADENTON -- Jill Mullins keeps an album in her home filled with memories and old photos of her late husband, Pat Mullins. There are grainy photos of the couple's wedding day, and another of Jill and Pat smiling in a pumpkin patch.
As she sat at her dining table Monday afternoon, the 56-year-old Mullins smiled faintly as she studied these pieces of the past.
Wednesday marks three years since Pat, a 52-year-old Palmetto High School media specialist, disappeared after never returning from testing a boat motor on the Braden River, which runs behind the Mullins home. His badly decomposed body was found Feb. 5, 2013, shot to death in the Manatee River.
Mullins, who works as a media specialist and teach
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es English for speakers of other languages at Lakewood Ranch High School, continues to search for what exactly led to her husband's death. The soft-spoken widow said she has a feeling 2016 will be the year she finally learns the truth.
"I think if we knew more about what had happened to him, that we could have some type of closure. As it is, we know the day he disappeared. We don't know when he died," she said. "Mason and Miles are still wanting, needing to know what happened to their dad."
Her sons are part of the reason why Mullins said she keeps pushing her family's story before the public, in hopes someone might recall something they heard three years ago.
Recently, Mullins sent a letter to more than 130 congregations in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
"Our family's request is that on Sunday, January 31st, you ask your congregation to pray that the family of Pat Mullins be led to peace and that those responsible for Pat's death feel the need to free themselves from their burden of guilt and take responsibility for their actions," the letter reads.
Shake Pit, 3801 Manatee Ave. W. in Bradenton, will also dedicate a message on its marquee in memory of Pat this Sunday.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office has no leads in the case.
"We investigate any leads that do come in, but we really haven't gotten anything," sheriff's office spokesman Dave Bristow said. "We're still open to any information that comes in, that's for sure. If someone knows something about his death, they need to step forward. We've exhausted all our leads."
Mullins, however, has not budged. She believes there's still more investigating to do.
In August, she spoke out about the performance of the sheriff's office in her husband's death investigation at a public information session as part of an assessment from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. Created in 1979, CALEA is a credentialing authority with programs to improve delivery of public safety services.
"When crimes such as my husband's death by shotgun and having the body weighted down by an anchor are not classified as homicides. ... how in the world can an analysis be valid?" Mullins asked CALEA assessors. "The sheriff's office has maintained that they have a gut feeling it's a suicide and they also maintained that they have no evidence to support that so they cannot claim that it is a suicide as a method of death."
Pat's brother, Gray Mullins, said he would also like to know what happened.
"Obviously you can't change the outcome and that's, of course, regrettable but it's just an unanswered question," the 52-year-old Bradenton resident said. "It's not very soothing or comforting to know something like this happened and you don't have answers."
Gray said everyone heals in different ways and not knowing the details surrounding Pat's death is affecting Jill.
"I'm certain that it's continued pain for her, but I support her 100 percent," he said about her search for answers. "I have to think the answer will come out somewhere down the road. ... but sooner will be better than later."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.